Aztecs continued tradition as girls volleyball power with league title, 6A state semifinal berth

Kierstyn Barton (right), a 6-foot-3 junior outside hitter for Corona del Sol’s girls volleyball team, prepares to unload a spike on Desert Vista in the state playoffs. The Lady Aztecs reached the 6A state semifinals. — Photos by Andrew Lwowski for wranglernews.com

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By Andrew Lwowski, Special for wranglernews.com

The Corona del Sol Aztecs are known around the Valley as one of the top high school programs for girls volleyball.

Coach Ben Maxfield

And this season is no different. The Lady Aztecs earned the No. 4 seed in the Class 6A state tournament. After cruising to wins over Tucson Rincon and Desert Vista in the first two rounds, the Aztecs ran into top seed Sandra Day O’Connor High in the state semifinals and fell 3 games to 2. O’Connor then fell to Hamilton in the state-title game.

Corona del Sol finished 10-0 and league champion, and 28-7 overall.

“It starts with having talent,” Coach Ben Maxfield said with a chuckle. “We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of talent and because we have consistency in our coaching — our coaching staff have been together for a really long time — I think that makes a big difference.”

Ella Lomigora, a 6-foot-3 junior middle blocker, serves one up.

Since taking over as head coach in 2006, Maxfield has guided taken the Lady Aztecs to the state championships five times, winning the 6A title in 2016 and finishing runners-up in 2006, 2009, 2017 and 2018.

The powerhouse of Corona women’s volleyball did not start with Maxfield, however. Debbie Moore, who coached at Corona during the mid-’80s, built up the program and won a state championship in 1991. Moore now is in the Corona del Sol Hall of Fame. She set the tone.

“She built up this program,” Maxfield said. “We’ve just had consistent coaching so it’s just become a tradition. We’re known as a volleyball school; the program sells itself — success sells itself. People want to come to success.”

Maxfield has maintained the tradition.

Geoff Horewitch, the girls junior varsity coach and men’s head coach, also has been crucial to the consistency, Maxfield said.

Sydney Meyer, a 6-foot senior outside hitter, wreaks thunder on the Thunder.

“Because we have coached together for so long, he knows what we need at the higher level,” Maxfield said of Horewitch. “He is able to start training them there so it’s a smooth transition. It’s not all new systems and all new techniques and it’s very consistent, so that’s huge.”

Coinciding with consistent coaching, the environment that they foster brings out the best in the players as well as attracting transfers.

“We make it an environment where they can have fun, and it’s OK to make mistakes,” Maxfield said. “As long as we’re working to get better then we’re never on them about that type of thing.”

Maxfield is adamant that the girls practice in game-like situations.

Senior libero Angie Bour (right) sets up senior outside hitter Kacie Webb.

And, to keep his players healthy mentally and physically, Maxfield and his coaching staff have had to adapt to the rapid growth of club volleyball.

“Club volleyball has been such a long and grueling season,” Maxfield said. “We’ve eliminated a lot of our training during the summer and I think that keeps our girls fresh and excited to come back into the gym. I think we’ve done a good job at modifying what we’ve done to make it still fun for them.”

The family atmosphere of the program also has benefitted the Aztecs.

“I think we are a family program and we want to help the kids get better,” Maxfield added. “That just draws people in.”

The number of transfers into Corona’s program has increased in recent years.

“We’ve had some good pieces come in,” Maxfield said. “The good thing about it is they’re the type of girls that really meld well into the program. We have had some that have started here since ninth grade and then some that have transferred here.”

Advancing in the state playoffs always is a thrill. From left: Kierstyn Barton, Anglie Bour, Kacie Webb, Natalie Mantini, Sydney Meyer and Reese Manross celebrate the moment after eliminating Desert Vista in the 6A state quarterfinals.

The Aztecs 2021 roster includes two transfers, outside hitter Kierstyn Barton and setter Georgia Lee. Both have contributed positively in the Aztecs regular-season and postseason play.

Maxfield has had several players sign to play at the collegiate level, including libero/outside hitter Brooke Nuneviller and libero/defensive specialist Becca Morse, who both play for Oregon. Other notable alums include Laruen Forte, who signed with California, and Emma West, who went on to Montana State.

“I’m proud to be an Aztec, I love Corona,” Maxfield said. “I’ll always want this to be successful, and when the day comes that I step away, I want to leave it better than I found it.”

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